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Churches, Salons Begin Making Their Comeback

For those who have anxiously been awaiting the day when they could go get a haircut or have their gray roots touched up, the state health department has some good news to share. The same can also be said for those eager to return to church and religious services, though with limitations put in place.

The California Department of Public Health announced Tuesday, May 26 that counties that have attested to meeting the criteria for accelerated re-opening, which includes Stanislaus County, may re-open hair salons and barbershops with some modifications put into place.

“Together, Californians have limited infections in our state, and because of that work, many counties may make a decision to restart modified hair and barber services,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health. “However, COVID-19 is still present in our communities and we are still at risk. As we venture outside our homes, it is critically important to keep physical distance, wear face coverings in public, and wash hands frequently to help protect yourself and those around you.”

Hair salons and barbershops were originally slated to re-open in a later stage of the California Pandemic Resilience Roadmap primarily because of the prolonged face-to-face contact between hairdresser/barber and client and the potential risk that carries of spreading COVID-19. For example, two hair stylists in Missouri tested positive for COVID-19 and health officials believe they exposed at least 140 clients.

In order to re-open, hair salons and barbershops will have to make modifications to adhere to social distancing guidelines of six feet or more. The CDPH also states both hairdressers/barbers and clients wear face masks during their visit.

Among the pages of requirements for hair salons and barbershops are:

• Display a set of guidelines for customers that are to be a condition of entry. The guidelines must include instructions to wear face coverings, use hand sanitizer and maintain physical distance from other customers.

• Contact customers before visits to confirm appointments and ask if they are exhibiting any symptoms, have been sick, or whether they have been exposed to someone who has been sick. If the customer answers in the affirmative for any of those questions, reschedule the appointment at least 10 to 14 days in the future.

• Stagger appointments to reduce reception congestion and ensure adequate time for proper cleaning and sanitation between each customer visit. Consider servicing fewer customers each day or expanding operating hours to allow for more time between customers. Suspend walk-in appointment availability.

• Ensure that workers do not see multiple customers at once (e.g. while one customer’s hair is drying, another receives a haircut). Services for one customer should be completely rendered before a new customer is seen by the same worker.

• If possible, implement virtual check-in technology to ensure that workers are notified when a customer arrives. Ask customers to wait outside or in their cars rather than congregating in the salon or barbershop. In larger locations, reception areas should only have one customer at a time or modify the area for adequate physical distancing, including removing chairs and sofas.

• Wherever possible, doors should be left open if they do not open and close automatically.

• Require workers to avoid handshakes, hugs, or similar greetings that break physical distance.

While hair salons and barbershops can open, some services still haven’t made the cut to start up again. Those services include manicures and pedicures, facials, threading, shaves, facial waxing, and eyelash services.

The announcement follows one from the CDPH on Monday that religious and worship services can resume with limitations. Under new guidance, places of worship can hold religious services and funerals that limit attendance to 25 percent of a building’s capacity – or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower – upon approval by the county department of public health.

The new guidance for religious services and cultural ceremonies encourages organizations to continue online services and activities, as a way to protect individuals who are most at risk for more severe COVID-19, including older adults and people with specific medical conditions.

“Places of worship provide comfort to many in our community, and we appreciate the collaborative work with our faith leaders on important re-opening practices,” said Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, Stanislaus County Public Health Officer. “There have been many outbreaks linked to religious services and choir practices. We have faith that our community will continue to look out for each other by observing six feet of social distancing and by limiting activities that promote spread such as singing, especially during this time when members of our community need a safe space to help them cope.”

In 21 days, the Department of Public Health, in consultation with local departments of public health, will review and assess the impact of the religious services guidelines and provide further direction as part of a phased-in restoration of activities. This 21-day interval accounts for seven days for religious communities to prepare and reopen in addition to a 14-day incubation period of COVID-19.

To reopen for religious services and funerals, places of worship must:

Establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff on the plan, and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance.

Train employees and volunteers on COVID-19, including how to prevent it from spreading and which underlying health conditions may make individuals more susceptible to contracting the virus.

Implement cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

Set physical distancing guidelines.

Recommend that staff and guests wear cloth face coverings, and screen staff for temperature and symptoms at the beginning of their shifts.

Set parameters around or consider eliminating singing and group recitations. These activities dramatically increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. For this reason, congregants engaging in singing, particularly in the choir, and group recitation should wear face coverings at all times and when possible, these activities should be conducted outside with greater than six-foot distancing.

Offering plates (and similar items) should not be passed around between worshipers.

Discouraging sharing of items like prayer books, cushions, and prayer rugs.

The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency also recommends houses of worship maintain a list of congregants in attendance each week. If transmission of COVID-19 is detected, this is critical to help quickly identify those who may have been exposed and stop additional spread. They also should assign a person to educate all on the best social distancing measures and monitor implementation of recommendations.

California has recorded 96,733 confirmed cases and 3,814 deaths from COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

More information about the state’s COVID-19 guidance is on the California Department of Public Health’s Guidance web page.